Affiliate marketing tips: What works and what doesn’t

I’ve been experimenting with affiliate marketing this year and I thought it might be handy if I shared what’s been working for me, and what hasn’t.

If you’re not sure what affiliate marketing is, you can take a look at this post Be an affiliate.

(It’s OK, go have a read. I’ll wait here until you come back!)

You can use affiliate marketing as your only source of income or you can do it alongside others such as creating your own products, providing a service or selling advertising. It’s up to you.

Here’s why I like affiliate marketing…

  • There’s no stock to buy or store because I get commission for selling other people’s stuff.
  • If done right, it can bring in passive income for years. (Note the ‘if done right’!)
  • I like creating my own information products but that takes time.  There are loads of people creating excellent products that complement what I’m offering and writing about, so why not help them spread the word? Plus when I create my own products, I hope they’ll spread the word about mine, too.

All of which sounds great, but there is one BIG problem. Affiliate marketing is a lot harder than most people would have you believe.

I’ve lost count of the number I’ve times I’ve read how easy it is to sign up to an affiliate network (Affiliate Future, Commission Junction, Affiliate Window, Clickbank…), paste an advert or link on your blog and then carry on writing until the money comes in.

I’ve spoken to a few bloggers who’ve tried this and after a month they end up with about three clicks on the advert and no money. So they give up, and who can blame them? This is exactly what happened to me, except I saw there are many people doing very well as affiliates and I was determined to work out how they do it.

I’m stubborn like that 🙂

OK, so what has worked well?

1. A tutorial-style post

This post how to start an online shop has been my most successful (i.e. the highest number of people who have ever clicked through and bought the product have come from this post). It’s a fairly inexpensive product, so I haven’t done all that well in terms of money, though. But I’m fine with that, because I’ve learned loads from this post and lots of people have been in touch to say it’s helped them, too. It also does fairly well in Google, so that means I get a steady trickle of traffic through to the post, which in turn means passive income. If I can duplicate this for a bigger product I’ll be very happy!

The key things to note about making affiliate sales from tutorial-style posts are:

1) It’s got to be a really useful post so people talk about it on social media, bookmark it and return to it.

2) You need to keep sending people to the post long after the post is published. That means using SEO (search engine optimization) to send people to it from Google, creating new posts that link back to the post and mentioning it in your newsletter, free ebooks and anything else you can think of.

3) The affiliate product has to be an incredibly good match, both to the tutorial post and your audience.

That’s a long way from just sticking an affiliate advert in your sidebar!

2. Launching my own product and working with a team of affiliates

If you want to make a living online you need to seriously consider creating information products. And when you do, you have to use affiliates or you’ll be wasting vast amounts of your time and effort. When I launched my Earn What You Deserve as a Mumpreneur e-course, around 70% of the courses downloaded were sold by my affiliates.

Looking back, I would have been crazy to have launched that e-course without affiliates.

If you have an e-book, e-course or other information product and would like to have an affiliate programme, the easiest way to do it is to use EJunkie or Clickbank. I used EJunkie and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was.

3. Not giving up

This earning-a-living-on-the-internet malarkey has to be the most frustrating ‘job’ I’ve ever had. And that’s coming from someone who has taught teenagers for a living! You need to be persistent, to keep experimenting and to never stop learning. And you have to enjoy it or you won’t keep going.

4. Having a mailing list

It’s pretty much essential if you’re planning to earn a living online, whichever business model you’re using.

And what hasn’t worked?

As I already mentioned, putting an affiliate advert in my sidebar was a waste of time. In the end I decided I’d be better off using that space to advertise my own products.

After that I looked at the posts on Business Plus Baby that were getting a steady flow of visitors every month and put an affiliate advert at the bottom of those. The trouble is that the people reading these posts were not in ‘buying mode’. They were looking for information on maternity pay, not to buy web hosting or apply for a bank account. I replaced the adverts with the message

If you enjoyed this post, why not join my mailing list?  Sign up and I’ll send you copy of  my e-book Running a business around a family: 9 steps to success

…which has increased my mailing list sign-ups nicely.

As I said, you’ve got to experiment.

Here’s what I’m doing now…

My latest experiment is as an Amazon affiliate (known as Amazon Associates). I picked a product that’s a bestseller and that would be used by readers of Business Plus Baby (the Gro-Clock). I published this post with an affiliate link and I’m using SEO to  get it on page one of Google for the keywords ‘gro clock’ and ‘stop my toddler from waking up too early’.

In less than 2 weeks, a couple of positive things have happened. The first was when the Gro Store invited me to become one of their affiliates and the second was when my post arrived on page 1 of Google for the keywords ‘toddler wake up clock’ (I hadn’t intentionally optimized the page for those keywords). I’m waiting to see what happens next!

I also decided it was time to get some proper affiliate marketing training, so last week I joined myNAMS.com (NAMS =Niche Affiliate Marketing System) and so far it’s been great.

Resources I recommend…(yes, one is free!)

  • Definitely the myNAMS affiliate marketing training course. The discount code MYNAMS85 will save you 85%, by the way.
  • If you’d like to know more about affiliate marketing but myNAMS is too big a step for you, get yourself a copy of Huge Profits with Affiliate Marketing by Connie Ragen Green. I bought it when it was launched last month and it covers how to do affiliate marketing the right way so you actually make some money!
  • And if you’d like a free e-book explaining how full-time affiliate marketer Lynn Terry does it, click here: Lynn Terry interview. There’s loads of really useful advice in there.

So that’s what I’ve learned about affiliate marketing. If you have any tips or advice to add, please do leave me a comment.

(Not surprisingly, this post contains affiliate links!)

Comments

  1. Hi Helen love the idea of Affiliate Marketing too and it is a jungle out there so pleased to be able to share your post as host on the Business Plus Baby Blog Carnival this month sure to be really useful to us all Emma

  2. A really interesting read, thank you – I guess I apply “be persistent, to keep experimenting and to never stop learning” to just about everything I do with PhotoFairytales and I think being darn stubborn helps too!
    Sarah 🙂

  3. Thanks for this it is really usefl and something I need to write about too!

  4. Thanks – really useful stuff. Think you are right about peristence and experimentation! Philippa

  5. Thank you Sarah, Kizzy and Philippa. I think persistence and experimentation play a huge role in your success if your run a small business. Nice to know I’m in good company!

  6. Very well done, your persistence and determination is what has got you to this point for sure. A tough old world, but potentially so lucrative. I highly recommend you have a look at http://www.affiliatestuff.co.uk/. Totally free and sales free blog by Kirsty McCubbin is a wondersul, giving young lady. A Brit who now lives in Australia but she blogs a lot and offers huge tips on Affiliate stuff (and lots about her new baby as well). She sells nothing on her blog and doesn’t sell her advice and experience of AM, communicates very freely and is worth knowing!!

    Well done again, speak again soon…:)

    • Thank you! Sadly it’s only very lucrative for a tiny minority of people who try it, which is why I always try to be honest about that. Thanks for the tip about Kirsty, I think I’ve actually read a blog by an Australian Kirsty and it was great, must check again.

      Since I wrote this post I’ve switched directions a little and I’m making product/training course creation the main part of what I do. That’s partly because of my background as a trainer, though. I do some affiliate marketing but it’s too hit-and-miss for my liking and with the constant Google changes, I don’t want to rely on it too much. I do have affiliates for my own products, though.

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